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Nikon D3000 Hands On Review


To begin with, special thanks go out to my friends at B&H Photo Video for loaning me this camera to review.

I am not going to spend time going through every menu and button on the camera.  There are plenty of sites you can go to get the technical details of each of these items.  My intent is to give my overall impressions of the camera and features I found useful.



What’s in the Box:

  1. Nikon D3000 10.2 Megapixel Camera Body with Body Cap
  2. The Kit sent to me included an AF-S Nikkor 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6 VR Lens
  3. Battery and Wall Charger
  4. Neck Strap
  5. USB cable
  6. Instruction Manuals and Quick Start Guide
  7. Nikon Software Suite CD ROM
  8. Reference Manual on CD ROM


Initial impressions:

Spring Cherry Blossoms - ISO 100 f5.6 - Nice Bokeh

After using Nikon D3000 for a week or so, I can say this is one nice camera.  The size of the D3000 reminds me very much of my older Canon Rebel XT and a side by side comparison shows them to be very close in body dimensions and weight.  It is light and easy to carry around for extended periods.  I have heard others comment negatively on the small size of the DSLR’s in this category, but I have never found them uncomfortable or less secure to hold than some of the larger camera bodies.  The grip and button layout is very natural and it did not take me very long to get comfortable with the controls.

One aspect of this camera that is really nice is the 11 point auto focus system.  I found it focused fast and most important accurately.  This is the same focusing mechanism found on the much more expensive Nikon D90, and more advanced than what is available on the other cameras in the D3000’s segment.  

As for the buttons available, there are not many.  Most of the commands are found in the menu system.  There are buttons for exposure compensation, auto exposure/focus lock and a user programmable function button on the left side just above the lens release button.  It can be set to control ISO, Timer, Image Quality, White Balance, Active D-lighting or to Set Framing Grid (allowing you to choose the one you use most).  Another control layout feature I really like is the adjustment wheel that is accessible using the right thumb; it just feels natural and intuitive to me.

The Active D-lighting option is used to increase the dynamic range (usable information in the darker and lighter areas).  I tried this and found that while it does show more details in the shadows, it comes with a price.  Which is slower file write times and a little more noise in the shadows. 

Active D-Lighting Option - Off Left - On Right

The 3 inch LCD screen is large and easy to read.  I had no problems reading it in bright conditions.  One item on the screen that I thought might be useful to the photographer just starting out is the graphical representation of the lens aperture.  It shows the opening and closing of the aperture blades as each different aperture is selected.  Now, you may ask why this is useful.  Well let’s say you are just starting out in photography and can’t remember which F-stop gives you more or less light. This graphic shows you exactly what to expect.  Go from F5.6 to F6.3 and you see the aperture close down.

Washington State Capitol - ISO 400

Also, with beginners in mind, the Nikon D3000 has a new mode called “Guide”.  This is in addition to having the normal modes of Program, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Manual, Full Auto and Scene Modes.  By the way, scene mode is where you can choose action, portrait, landscape, etc. and the camera automatically selects settings for that type of photo.  I tried the new guide mode and think that it might be helpful for beginning photographers or those just switching to a DSLR from a compact camera.  When you choose Easy Operation in Guide Mode it asks you simple questions about the shooting situation you are in and explains which scene mode it is going to use and why. When you choose Advanced Operation it uses aperture and shutter priority modes and explains why you would use them.  You will soon outgrow this mode, but it is nice to have when you have trouble remembering which mode to use in a certain situation.

The Nikon D3000 has an ISO range of 100 to 1600 plus Hi 1 which is 3200.  I tried out different ISO’s and found that it is acceptable up to about ISO 800.  ISO 1600 could be used in a pinch if you really needed it and the image really degrades when you hit 3200. 

I used a 4GB SDHC card and found it hold the following quantities:

Fine/Large JPEG – 524

Fine/Medium JPEG – 922

Normal/Large JPEG – 1000

RAW NEF files – 228

Ianto Playing - Indoor Use of On Camera Flash - ISO 100

Some Other Nice Discoveries:

The menu has a Recent Settings option which allows you to quickly get to camera settings you have used in the past.  It holds the last 15 menu selections you have used.  Great if you want to get to an item you use frequently that is buried deeper in the menu structure.

There is also a framing grid option that is kind of nice.  It super imposes a black grid, using the rule of thirds in the viewfinder.  This grid flashes red when you half press the shutter release button and can be used to help you properly frame your subject.

The Nikon D3000 also has in camera retouching that allows you to make some adjustments to your photos right in the camera.  Such as Red Eye Correction, Cropping, Filter Effects, Color Balancing, D-Lighting (which opens up shadow areas) and other fun stuff. 

Didn't Want Spike to Feel Left Out - Program Mode w/ Flash

The kit lens that came with the D3000 package I tested is the AF-S Nikkor 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6 VR.  This is a pretty good lens to get you started out in photography.  I found that it was sharp and clear in the short time I spent with this camera.  The VR (Vibration Reduction) that is on this lens really helps when hand holding the camera in low light situations.  In case all the numbers and letters in the lens name do not make sense to you let’s talk a little about what they mean.  The 18-55mm refers to the lens focal length meaning it zooms from 18mm to 55mm.  The 1:3.5-5.6 refers to the available apertures for this lens.  This means the lens opens up to a maximum of f3.5 at 18mm and progresses to f5.6 at 55mm.  At the intermediate apertures, say at 35mm it opens up to f5.0.


Statue - ISO 100 Harsh Light

I thoroughly enjoyed using the Nikon D3000 and would definitely recommend it.  The high points are; it’s a light and compact camera to carry, has an 11 point autofocus system that works very well, the ISO performance is good and the modes available will serve beginner and seasoned photographers alike.  I also found the camera body of the D3000 very sturdy feeling, and well built.  One really nice thing about cameras in the D3000 segment is the ability to set the mode into Auto and hand it to someone who is not familiar with DSLR’s and have them snap away.  While this camera does not have video and live-view like some of its competitors, it does take very good photos and allows the photographer many creative options.

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